How Does Hypertension Affect the Eyes?

High blood pressure is an illness that systematically compromises the body's organs. It can quietly destroy the body for many years before any noticeable symptoms develop. Unbridled hypertension can lead to poor quality of life, disability, or a fatal stroke or heart attack. 


You can manage hypertension and minimize the risk of fatal complications through lifestyle changes and treatment. When it is yet to be diagnosed, hypertension can cause damage to the eyes. This damage is called hypertensive retinopathy.


Hypertensive Retinopathy - What Is It?

When you develop high blood pressure, your arteries and blood vessels are the first to suffer. In the eyes, the blood vessels in the retina begin to thicken. When this happens, less and less blood reaches the retina, causing the retina to swell.

As time goes by, hypertension causes more damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This will limit the retina's function, and the swelling puts pressure on the optic nerve. This series of events causes vision problems for the patient. This is the hypertensive retinopathy condition.


What Are the Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy?


Hypertensive retinopathy does not present symptoms until the condition has progressed significantly. Some of the possible symptoms and signs are the bursting of blood vessels, swelling of the eyes, headaches accompanying double vision, and minimized vision.


You should seek immediate medical attention if your blood pressure is high and you have issues with your vision.


What Are the Causes of Hypertensive Retinopathy?


Hypertensive retinopathy is mainly caused by prolonged high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a chronic condition where the pressure in your blood vessels is too high. The pressure comes from the heart pumping blood into the blood vessels and resting the heart between beats. 


The pressure in the blood going through the body causes blood vessels to stretch and damage. These issues can cause many problems in the body. Hypertensive retinopathy occurs when the blood pressure is high over a long time. High blood pressure is caused by:


  • Consuming too much salt

  • None or little physical activity

  • Lifestyle with too much stress

  • Being overweight


What Are the Risk Factors for Hypertensive Retinopathy?


Some factors can put you at a higher risk of developing hypertensive retinopathy. They are:


  • Smoking

  • Atherosclerosis

  • Consuming a lot of alcohol

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

  • Being overweight

  • Prolonged hypertension

  • An unhealthy diet high in trans fats, sodium, and sugary foods


Hypertensive retinopathy is more likely to affect people of African descent, more specifically Afro-Caribbean peoples. It is also more common in women than in men.


How Do You Diagnose Hypertensive Retinopathy?




The doctor uses an ophthalmoscope to observe the health of your retina. The device uses light to examine the retina at the back of your eye through your pupil. The doctor watches for damaged blood vessels.


Fluorescein Angiography

This test examines the blood flow of the retina. The doctor will use eye drops to dilate your eye then take photos. Then you will be injected with a fluorescein dye, and more photos are taken as the dye spreads to your eye.


For more on how hypertension affects the eyes, contact TMS Eye Care at our offices in Wichita or Arkansas City, Kansas. You can call (316) 686-7212, (316) 669-4760, or (620) 442-2577 to book an appointment today.